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Most difficult role in any advertising agency is that of a strategist, say panelists @WARC

30-October-2015
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Most difficult role in any advertising agency is that of a strategist, say panelists @WARC

The 5th year of the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy 2015 was held in Mumbai on Thursday evening. More than 135 campaigns from across the region entered the 2015 Prize, with half of the shortlisted entries hailing from India.

A panel comprising of Sonal Dabral, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, DDB Mudra Group, Ajay Kakar, CMO, Aditya Birla Group, Partha Sinha, Managing Director, South Asia, Publicis and Jyoti Bansal, Managing Director at PHD India spoke on the topic ‘The future of strategy in India’ at the event.

Dabral kick-started the session, by pointing out that the strength of the Indians as compared to the many western counterparts, lies in its thinking. “Right from the time, we grow up; we have been taught how to be strategic. We have a huge population, with paucity of things, for e.g. there are six brothers and only one sweet to be shared, even for education, the seats are limited. So I think as a race, we are better strategic thinkers. If we go back to our 100 years of culture, there are many myths and legends, which actually make us, think that there, are many dimensions to the problem. So a strategic planner should start to dissect a problem in many dimensions and that would help them to arrive at the right solution. Strategic planning on one hand, can be very complex and on the other hand, quite liberating,” he said.

Kakar highlighted the strength of the Indian strategy in three points. Firstly, the complexity of the market, secondly, the pressure of the budget and finally the Indian or the New Media spirit to win. He pointed, “When there is a scarcity, then there is a burning desire and the strategy seems to be the easiest path. It acts as the perfect tool”

Role of a Strategist:

According to Sinha, the ratio itself is so scary; so there was no choice but to be good. What is important is strategic planning practice and not strategic planning discipline. There are basically three types of brands- culture laggards, culture current and culture leading. Most brands are culture laggards, therefore the role of a strategist is to try and get brands and culture as close to each other.

Dabral elaborated, “The most difficult role in any advertising agency is that of a strategist. To come up with a right strategy, is far more difficult than coming up with a good creative. It is only a good strategic thought, which leads to a great creative platform. In India, we have grown in the midst of millions of deities, different forms of folk music, thousand year old art and Bollywood, which is melodramatic. So when a strategist sits with a problem, his mind is a bank of so many different influences, that the job of this person is to be able to commit to and stand by a simple sharp strategy.”

Whose responsibility is it to be effective?

Partha pointed that, in order to be effective, one can’t start by saying that that I want to be effective, instead one should start with the notion that I want to be right. Effectiveness at the starting point can be wrong. I will not necessarily, hold the strategist or the planner responsible if something is not effective. But the custodian of effectiveness should be both the client and the agency together.

Echoing similar thoughts, Dabral agreed that it is the combined responsibility of both. Any creative approach, unless it is effective, it is not creative. A creative can be great, but it may not work, if the strategy based on, was crap.

Challenges and opportunities of Strategy:

Elaborating on the challenges, Bansal from PHD highlighted, “The job is to stay focussed and stay true to what the consumers want. It is about the right ways to connect, rather than touching numerous touch points. One of the challenges, which we deal with on a regular basis, is that clients look at strategy as an answer to every problem you have in the market.”

Dabral cited, “The biggest opportunity is that, there is so much available in terms of technology and also in terms of what we can do, to be able to come up with the right strategy for various channels. The task is to not get lost in the plethora of channels.”

Kakar said, “The planners have not got the respect they deserve, it is the creatives, who are the Madonna. We believe in duos, I have not seen a creative-planner Jodi who have shared the limelight together in recent times”

Talking about the opportunities, Sinha pointed, “Finally, people have accepted that there is nothing given and they have started asking fundamental questions. They have started accepting that toolification is only a presentation device and not a thinking device. On the other hand, challenges come in the form of the idea of restraint, you should remember, that you are talking to human beings and not androids. Communication today, is based on ROI- Return on Investment, but instead, they should be based on Return on Ideas.”

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